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Laying Odds on the Big Race Using Sports Stats

By Yong-yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

Clearly, baseball did not treat my predictions so kindly in the playoffs. My picks could have been more accurate had I just flipped a coin. At least in that manner, I could blame the outcome on a Bernoulli distribution and not my own gut feeling.

But now that baseball is over, we can shift our attention to something, not as important, but just as competitive: the national election tonight.

Instead of using voter polls or ballot counting to predict the outcome of the election, I will base my prediction purely from events in the world of sports.

After all, what good was all that analysis four years ago when the final decision of the presidency did not come down to the voters of American, but rather to nine people on the Supreme Court? And since this election is as muddled as can possibly be, maybe through the butterfly effect something that happens in a sports stadium will determine the our next president.

Simply taking a look at the events of the past week has the Democrats way out in front in this election. Allow me to explain.

Wednesday was perhaps the biggest shocker of all time when the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series after 86 years. The curse is broken, the city celebrates and Boston is on top of the world. But why was the curse finally broken in 2004?

Some point to the Nomar Garciaparra trade, others credit the outcome of the playoffs to a good pitching staff. But perhaps this was just a way to send a message about the next president. If we go back 86 years to 1918, the president was Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. Maybe this time, the World Series will once again be coupled with a Democratic president.

In addition to that, the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry might be a hint of what is to come. Do you think it is a coincidence that John Henry and John Kerry have identical first names while the same is true for Steinbrenner and Bush? Clearly, John Henry has beaten George Steinbrenner this year on a miracle comeback. Many of us did not even give the Sox a chance after falling back 0-3.

With the upcoming election, it appears that Kerry is also down in the polls, although his deficit does not seem to be the insurmountable hole that the Red Sox were in. Kerry could also pull a comeback to win this election tonight.

The other shocking event came Saturday night when the University of Miami (Florida) lost to the North Carolina Tarheels. The Tarheels had never beaten a top five program in 38 attempts. It could not have come at a worse time for the state of Florida. This loss by Miami followed closely on the heels of Florida State University losing to the University of Maryland and the University of Florida losing to the University of Georgia.

Who could forget what happened in the last election when George W. Bush won the state of Florida? Perhaps this time the football gods are trying to fix what has been wronged and swing the Sunshine state towards the democratic side.

Oh, by the way, the last time those three Florida teams have lost on the same weekend? October 14, 1978. Jimmy Carter, another Democrat, was president then.

An additional karmic indicator involves national convention sites. This might seem strange, but if you go back to the last three elections and look at where the respective national conventions were held and how those cities’ teams ended up in the regular season standings, an interesting pattern appears.

In 1992, the RNC was in Houston while the DNC was in New York. Despite the Houston Astros having a better record than the New York Mets, the Democrats came out on top in the election.

In 1996, the RNC was held in San Diego and DNC in Chicago. Although Clinton won the election, since San Diego, home to that year’s Republican convention, was the city making it to the World Series, Congress swung to the Republicans.

Finally, in 2000, although the LA Dodgers had a better record than the Philadelphia Phillies, the Republicans, who had held their convention in Philly, won the election.

And this year, the Red Sox had a worse record than the Yankees in the regular season, which might indicate that the Democrats, who held their national convention in Boston, would be coming out on top.

Boy, it’s really not looking good for Curious George and the Republicans. In fact the ultimate sports predictor of elections, the one stat that never fails, is going for the Democrats too.

Ever since 1936, whenever the Washington Redskins have won the last home game before the election, the incumbent party remains in office. If they lose, however, the incoming party wins the election. The Redskins lost to the Packers 28-14 Sunday, so it seems the election is all but sealed for John Kerry and John Edwards. I guess it’s four years of flip-flopping. I sure hope that he is the lesser of two evils.